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The Value Of Friendship

By Henry Nelson



  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.” Someone made the observation that “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants us to give his church. It’s the imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality but it is a permissive, accepting and inclusive fellowhip. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be knowns, to love and be loves, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”Perhaps there is no better example of this than the television Sitcom “Cheers.” The theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they are always glad you came. You want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name!” Is not it sad that was written about a bar instead of the house of God. When you read these words of Solomon you tend to think in terms of marriage, and there certainly is that application. However I believe the author had a much wider application in mind. This is for people who are humans on this lonely earth who are wondering how to survive in our dog-eat-dog culture. {{more}}The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that friendship is a good investment When the author says in verse nine, “Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their labor” the words “good reward” can also be translated “good return” for it means -dividends paid on a wise investment. The very best investment you will ever make in life will not be a financial one, but rather the investment made in relationships. We will get the best return on that investment over any other investment that we will ever make. As we go through life there are two kinds of things we can give our lives to. Some people try to accumulate possessions. They are constantly trying to get more or better stuff. It is attributed to the late Malcolm Forbes to have said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” However, since he has died, he knows that not to be true. If we spend all our lives trying to accumulate more and more possessions, we will never truly be happy and fulfilled. On the other hand we can decide to focus on building relationships, trying to make friends and to be a friend. The first half of Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”   What are the four characteristics of a real friend? A real friend helps you when you are down. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, “For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” Now you may have a lot of people in your life you could call acquaintances. But you may only have a very few that you could term “real friends.” Someone has suggested that we have been successful in life if we have enough close friends to act as pall bearers at our funeral.   You may wonder, “How can I tell the difference between acquaintances and friends.” That’s easy, just get in trouble, the people that are still around are your real friends, and there may not be as many left as you would have thought. A friend is the kind of person if you call them at 2:00 in the morning and tell them you need them. They do not ask, “So what is the problem” and then decide whether or not to come. They simply ask, “Where are you?” as they are getting dressed. That is a friend. How many people do you have like that in your life? The writer of Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A real friend helps you when you are down and out! Amen!   A Real Friend Is Someone Who Provides Emotional Or Physical Warmth In A Cold, Cruel World. Ecclesiastes 4:11 says, “Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?” Sometimes we have a tendency to take a passage so literally that we miss point of the whole idea. This is more than just about keeping each other physically warm. You need help to face circumstances beyond your control. You need to be able to gain emotional strength when you do not have enough of your own. Sometimes it is cold out there in the world. These are those circumstances where you are facing a battle of “How am I going to make it through this right now!” That is the time you need a friend to give us emotional strength. Amen!   A Real Friend Is Someone Who Will Fight To Protect You Or Your Reputation. . Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.” Amen!When these words were written based on the military strategy of the ancient world. Almost all combat, was hand to hand combat. Soldiers went into battle with a partner, someone that could be counted and trusted implicitly. The soldiers stood back to back of one another, and they always keep their backs in contact and fought whatever enemy came from any side. Friends not only never stab you in the back, they guard your back. A friend never puts up with gossip about their friends. Let me give you a definition of Gossip. Gossip is when someone says something negative or unkind about someone who is not present, whether it is true or not. A real friend is someone who will fight to protect you or your reputation.   A real friend is committed to helping you grow spiritually. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of an invitation, an invitation to a relationship with God. Some of you are here today because your friend invited you. Well I want to tell you that they are a true friend because they are letting you know of the greatest gift anyone could ever get and that is a personal relationship with God, forgiveness for your sin and a place in heaven forever. If you have not accepted Christ personally into your life I want to invite you to do so in just a moment. True friends want to see you continue to grow. The writer of Proverbs has said that friends help to sharpen us, to become sharp spiritually a little bit at a time. He compares this type of friendship to iron that is banged on by iron. Think of a blacksmith who makes swords. He takes a hammer and takes out a piece of iron and works on it slowly and continuously until it takes the shape and sharpness of a sword. Friends are always challenging us and even pushing us to be all that God wants for us to be. You may be saying to yourself, “I wish I had a friend like that!” Well I am so glad you asked! The second half of Proverbs 18:24 which we looked at early says, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”   As I finish this week let me close by inviting you to let Jesus be your Best Friend. There are some very important reasons to do so. First, Jesus deserves to be your best friend because He already knows you better than anyone else. One definition of a friend is someone who knows all about us and likes us anyway. Well, no one better fulfills that qualification than Jesus. Secondly, Jesus deserves to be your best friend because He had done more for you than anyone else. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Amen!   Third, Jesus deserves to be your best friend because; He will always be there when you need Him. The words of the old hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” says it well, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus, All Our Sins And Griefs To Bear. What A Privilege To Carry Everything To God In Prayer. Oh, What Peace We Often Forfeit, Oh, What Needless Pain We Bear, All Because We Do Not Carry Everything To God In Prayer.”   For those of you who cannot honestly say today that you have experienced a relationship with Jesus I want to extend an invitation for you to do so today. I want to introduce you to someone who will be the greatest friend you have ever had. He is a friend who has already accepted you just and you are. He is a friend who has already paid your sin debt on the cross. He is a friend who is always accessible and who will never leave you. If you would like to accept him as your friend and your Savior I want to lead you in a prayer will allow you to establish that friendship.   This prayer is not a magic formula, that must be repeated in just the right order but is just a guide for you to make your own prayer to the Lord. I would like for everyone to repeat this prayer with me this morning. “Lord Jesus, I want to be your friend and I am thankful that you want to be mine. I realize that I have sinned and that sin has separated me from you. I recognize that friendship would not be possible without that the fact that you have already paid for my sin on the cross. I want to accept what you have personally done for me. Lord please come into my life, forgive me of my sin, and be the leader of my life.” Now you know the value of friendship. Amen!

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